HONG KONG -- First Union Corp. said it has formed a joint venture with the Hongkong Chinese Bank Ltd. to support U.S. companies trading with Asia.

Known as First Union HKCB Asia Ltd., the 50-50 joint venture is a deposit-taking entity headquartered in Hong Kong and capitalized initially at $3.2 million. It will provide trade finance products and services to importers and exporters in the United States, China, and Hong Kong.

Hongkong Chinese Bank is itself a 50-50 joint venture between the Jakarkta, Indonesia-based Lippo Group and China Resources (Holdings) Co., the largest mainland Chinese trading company incorporated in Hong Kong. Specializing in trade finance, it has been First Union's correspondent bank since 1985.

First Union's own trade finance volume, concentrated in Latin America, has tripled during the last three years and is expected to reach $4 billion by yearend.

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